Category: Police-Public Safety

Opinion: Schaaf’s Leadership of OPD Compels Support of Cat Brooks for Mayor

Cat Brooks (right) speaks at mayoral debate.

By Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

Mayor Libby Schaaf owns the multiple failings of the Oakland Police Department and must be held accountable for them. Her lack of leadership on the reforms needed in the OPD is one of the primary reasons I support Cat Brooks for Oakland Mayor.

OPD is the City’s largest, most expensive, and arguably most important department. It spends almost half of the City’s General Fund, twice as much as the Fire Department.

The Oakland Police Department has been under the supervision of the federal court since January 22, 2003 because of the City’s failure to remedy systemic police misconduct, including abusing members of the public and racial profiling during traffic stops.

Mayor Schaaf promised during the 2014 campaign that she would meet the court’s demands and end federal oversight but has failed to so. In his September 2018 report, the Court Monitor concluded that OPD’s claims of decreased use of force were flawed because of the Department’s failure to accurately document incidents where officers used force.

On September 25, 2015, Officer Brendan O’Brien committed suicide, leading to the investigation of the sexual exploitation by Oakland and other law enforcement officers of a minor known as Celeste Guap (Jasmine Abuslin). OPD officials downplayed the sexual abuse claims and failed to investigate them properly.

Mayor Schaaf claims that she was not advised about the abuse investigation until March 22, 2016, but her statement can be questioned in light of the routine practice of OPD Internal Affairs officials to advise the City Administrator – and through her the mayor – of much less serious claims of police misconduct.

Months later the mayor finally professed outrage at the officers’ actions. Worse still, Schaaf’s chosen Chief, Anne Kirpatrick, has promoted some of the key administrators found to have covered up the sex abuse scandal.

Schaaf’s pattern of hiding OPD problems continues. Last weekend, after the San Francisco Chronicle exposed OPD’s practice of asking police officer applicants if they had been victims of sexual abuse, Schaaf again expressed surprised outrage and ordered that the practice end.

But complaints about the improper questioning of applicants were raised at City Council meetings months ago. Schaaf is either asleep at the wheel or indifferent to OPD problems until they become public

OPD’s one area of improvement has been the reduction of civilian killings since 2015. Citizen outrage, organized and led by Cat Brooks’ Anti Police Terror Project, deserves more credit for stopping trigger happy officers than any changes made by Mayor Schaaf.

Published October 31, 2018

Attacks on Desley Brooks Are “Shameful and Dishonest,” Say Community Leaders

 “Desley has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful  people with money who run everything,” says Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Ken Epstein

Until now, District 6, a largely flatland community in East Oakland, has been generally ignored by downtown gentrifying politicians and their allied developer/financier partners.

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

But that is changing as tens of thousands of dollars flow into the district to fuel a campaign of personal attacks and smears designed to unseat veteran Councilmember Desley Brooks, funded by Mayor Libby Schaaf, outside real estate developers and their allied building trades construction unions, according to required Political Action Committee filings.

Many of those who know Brooks and her track record are standing with the council member.

“I support Desley – I haven’t changed,” said Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr. pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry

“No matter what the enemy says, I stand with her because she loves Black people,” said Pastor Smith. “She has never done anything to harm the Black community. She has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful people with money who run everything.”

“I don’t see the same group crying out to help the jobless and the homeless or to help the neighborhoods in the same way they spend money on downtown (development).

“So, I shall not be moved.”

Brooks’ opponents put out flyers filled with vague and unfounded charges of corruption and dishonesty. But they do not talk about Brooks’ track record.

She has been outspoken in her opposition to police misconduct and racial profiling. She took on powerful interests in her fight for jobs and training opportunities for Black and Latino residents who want to enter good careers in the construction trades.

She opposed powerful businessmen when she worked to pass the city’s cannabis equity ordinance, winning national recognition for her efforts to create opportunities for individuals and communities that bore the

Dan Siegel

brunt of the War on Drugs.

She fought for the resources that have been denied to East Oakland and to create the city’s Department of Race and Equity, part of her effort to end the City of Oakland’s long-term discrimination in contracting against small Black, Latino- and Women-owned businesses.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry, senior pastor of First AME Church Oakland, said, “I live in District 6, and I’ve seen the work that (Brooks) has done. It’s unfortunate that people who don’t even live in the district and in a number of cases don’t even live in Oakland would be attacking a very effective member of the City Council.

“(Brooks’) opponents have not been tested or proven themselves to be productive” Mayberry continued. “I’ve been living here for 23, but I’ve seen nothing like this – it’s a divisive, evil, mean spirited campaign. It’s way over the line.”

Said local civil rights attorney Walter Riley. “It is a smear campaign, full of unjustified attacks on Desley because she has stood up for people in her district. More specifically, she has stood up for Black people in this climate of big money and powerful political interests that are taking control,”

Walter Riley

“They’re coming after her, and we need to defend her,” Riley said, emphasizing that people should not be distracted by Brooks’ past conflicts with people who have disagreed with her.

Dan Siegel, Oakland civil rights attorney and a District 6 resident, said “They are making charges without a shred of evidence, making assumptions, full of a lot of implicit bias.” “An old cliché says that you can tell a lot about a person by their enemies,” he said.

“Desley’s opponents are led by Libby Schaaf, Jean Quan, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Building and Construction Trades unions, which are angry because Desley has demanded that more high paying construction jobs on local development projects go to Black and Brown Oakland residents.

“People need to withhold judgment on the Elaine Brown case, which was lost because of the horrible job done by the City Attorney’s office,” he said. “I am representing Desley in her claim against the City Attorney, and I am confident the facts show that Elaine Brown was to blame in their confrontation.”

“I hope voters in District 6 will focus on the issues rather than the personalities,” said Siegel.

The anti-Brooks Political Action Committees (PACs) are largely funded by three groups: “supporters of Libby Schaaf’s city hall; large unions with mostly suburban, not Oakland memberships; and venture capitalists, developers and real estate investors,” according to an online article “The United Front Against Desley Brooks Part II.”

Published October 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: “Oakland’s Democracy Is Strengthened by the Re-Election of Councilmember Desley Brooks,” Says Sandré Swanson

Desley Brooks and Sandré Swanson

I was born in the City of Oakland and have devoted my life to public service. I proudly represented the city of Oakland as our California State Assemblymember, Deputy Mayor of Oakland, the Chief of staff for Congresswoman Barbara Lee and a senior advisor to former Congressman Ron Dellums.

The Citizens of Oakland elect their Councilmembers by districts to ensure that their vote determines who will speak for and represent our community. I endorse and support Councilmember Desley Brooks because she has been a clear and effective voice for her district and the underrepresented in our city.

In my career, I have had the honor of meeting many dedicated public servants, and I have seen the challenge and negative effect of big money campaigns to oppose those dedicated public servants.

The people of Oakland’s District 6 should send a clear and strong message that Oakland’s democracy is strengthened by the re-election of Councilmember Desley Brooks, an independent and uncompromising voice for her district.

For the past 16 years, Councilmember Desley Brooks has had a successful record for Oakland. Desley Brooks’ mission to bring representation for historically underrepresented groups and Oakland’s diverse communities into City Hall is her record of service:

  • As rents have skyrocketed, she has passed renter’s protection ordinances and advocated for affordable housing for all.
  • As police accountability and violence has challenged safety in our community, she pushed for an independent police review commission.
  • She stood up for immigrant rights and strengthened Oakland’s Sanctuary City ordinance and opposed illegal ICE raids.
  • To fight joblessness and homelessness, she has set up job training programs that build bridges into the middle class for Oakland’s residents.
  • To make sure Oakland is a fair, equitable place for all, she led the fight to establish the Department of Race and Equity, ensuring that City policies don’t discriminate against minorities and women.

Desley Brooks has worked tirelessly for the communities she represents, and that’s why she has earned the support of her constituents, City workers, firefighters, religious leaders, and others.

It’s why she has earned my support, and it’s why she deserves yours.

Published October 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Pastors, Black Panther Co-Founder, Residents React to Outside Money Pouring into D-6 Council Race

Community leaders defend Councilmember Desley Brooks’ fearless leadership

Former Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale speaks at a rally Thursday in front of City Hall, condemning Mayor Libby Schaaf’s fundraising efforts to pump outside money into District 6 to defeat Desley Brooks. Among others who spoke in in favor of Desley’s Brooks outspoken leadership on the City Council in defense of the community were Post Publisher Paul Cobb, Henry Gage of the Police Accountability Coalition, civil rights attorney and District 6 resident Dan Siegel, Rev. L.J. Jennings of Kingdom Builders Christian Fellowship and leaders of the public workers union, SEIU Local 1021. Photo by Ken Epstein

A community coalition comprised of Pastors, former Black Panther Co-Founder, Bobby Seale, Civil Rights attorneys and residents held a press conference this week calling out “money in politics” in the race for Oakland’s District 6 Council seat.

The group is responding to Mayor Libby Schaaf, her big money donors and Building Trade Unions tied to powerful, luxury real estate developers, who are now pouring outside money into the race to unseat District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Brooks has been a staunch critic of Schaaf and the lack of African American workers employed at construction sites throughout the city.

The community coalition is calling upon Mayor Schaaf and her supporters to immediately cease the outside money they are pumping into the local race and maintain what they deem a “fair and clean” election, free of distortions and attacks.

Mayor Schaaf has a history of mobilizing her base of wealthy donors to target councilmembers who have opposed her policies, including Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Rebecca Kaplan in 2016.

Over one-third of the Independent expenditure aimed at unseating Schaaf’s most vocal critic, Desley Brooks, has come from wealthy donors who have contributed tens of thousands of dollars over the years to the Mayor’s campaign efforts.

Speakers at the press conference, including Black Panther Party Co-Founder Bobby Seale, highlighted what they see as coordinated retaliation against Brooks for the many, community-based positions she has taken in City Hall.

Earning powerful enemies, Brooks has advocated for more inclusivity of the hiring of African-Americans in the powerful, Building and Construction Trades Unions and fought to to establish a Department of Race and Equity, which was initially opposed by the Mayor.

Published October 21 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Are Schaaf Administration and City Attorney Undermining Independent Police Commission?

Mayor Schaaf, City Administrator Landreth and City Attorney Parker failed to respond to Oakland Post’s Questions

City Attorney Barbara Parker, Chief of Police Anne Kirkpatrick, Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth. Photo courtesy of Oakland Magazine.

By Ken Epstein

Back in July when the Oakland City Council passed the enabling ordinance for the Oakland Police Commission—over the strenuous objections of the City Administrator and the City Attorney—it appeared for a moment that the issue was finally settled: commission staff would be independent of the mayor and the mayor’s administration.

In other words, the City Council decided the commission’s staff would report to the commission, not the City Attorney or the City Administrator.

Rashidah Grinage

Based on the Measure LL charter amendment, the City Council passed the ordinance July 10 on a 6-1 vote (with only Annie Campbell Washington voting no). The City contests the council decision, saying its provisions conflict with the City Charter.

Councilmembers rejected the City Attorney’s and the City Administrator’s contention that the City Charter as whole requires commission staff to be controlled by them, not independent of the administration as intended by the charter amendment, which passed two years ago with 83 percent of the vote.

Now, however, the mayor’s administration and the City Attorney are prepared to ignore the City Council’s decision, based on their interpretation of the City Charter, according to members of the steering committee of the Coalition for Police Accountability who met last Thursday with Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“The mayor is siding with the position of the City Attorney and the City Administration, even though the enabling ordinance was passed,” said Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

“Regardless of her opinion, they have to implement what was passed. Period. They are saying they don’t have to abide by it. But their only recourse is to go to court to get an injunction. Otherwise, they have to implement it,” she said.

Henry Gage, a coalition member who attended the meeting with Mayor Schaaf, said “The Mayor seems unwilling to go against the City Administrator and the City Attorney.”

“You’d think once the City Council votes it would be over,” said Gage. “However, what I’ve learned is that if the executive branch doesn’t want to do something, the only real remedy is go to the courts.”

Chair of the Police Commision Thomas Smith, speaking at a City Council meeting, emphasized the need for the commission’s staff to be independent . “Having someone who is not a member of the City

Henry Gage

Attorney’s Office is very important,” he said.

Pamela Drake of the coalition said that what the public is seeing is the latest maneuver in a series of actions the mayor and the administration have taken to weaken the police commission. “They are doing everything they can to undermine an independent police commission,” she said.

Seeking an explanation of the administration’s decision, the Oakland Post contacted the City Attorney, the City Administrator and Mayor Schaaf. By Post deadline, none of them had responded. According to Grinage, the issue of independence concretely comes down to the employment contracts and jobs descriptions of three employees and consultants.

One issue has to do with contracts for the two attorneys who work for the police commission and the Civilian Police Review Agency (CRPA).

“These contracts predate the enabling ordinance, and they have to be rewritten in order to be in conformity with the ordinance. (At present), their supervisor is the City Attorney’s Office, and that is unacceptable,” said Grinage.

The other issue has to be with the position of the inspector general, who has yet to be hired and would work for the police commission.
“They are on the verge of putting out the job announcement for the inspector general,” said Grinage. The question is whether that person will report to the commission or the City Administrator, she said.

“I expect sooner or later that we will wind up in court over this,” said Grinage.

By ignoring the City Council decision, the mayor and the City Attorney are bypassing the requirements of the City Charter, according to Councilmember Desley Brooks.

“The City Charter is clear: The City Council sets the policy of the city, and it is the responsibility of the mayor to implement it,” she said.

Attorney Dan Siegel, who served as Mayor Jean Quan’s legal advisor, said that he has carefully studied Oakland’s City Charter.

“The main takeaway is that the City Attorney does not have an independent role in city government. The City Attorney is lawyer for the mayor, council and departments and has to follow the direction of her employers.”

When various agencies of government disagree, he said, the dispute must often be settled in court.

Mayoral candidate Cat Brooks said, “Oaklanders voted for what they believed would be a community-controlled police commission. The City and the Mayor need to respect the voices of the people.”

“The mayor has tried to prevent the commission from having full autonomy from the beginning,” with her demand to have the authority to appoint three members of the commission, said Brooks.

Attorney Pamela Price, also a mayoral candidate, supports the need for the commission to be an independent body.

“The voters have shown their lack of confidence in the city administration’s willingness to hold the police department accountable,” said Price. “Their intent was clearly to create an independent structure, and that structure should be fully empowered to carry out its function.”

Published October 20, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Mayor, OPD Face Questions on Continued Racial Profiling

Oakland police

By Ken Epstein

Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration and the Oakland Police Department are facing questions about whether they have a serious plan to end racial profiling by police of African-American residents, who make up the overwhelming majority of local residents stopped by OPD for no reason at all.

The issue came up sharply at the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting last week when Deputy Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong—speaking for OPD—addressed the public’s concerns about the persistence of the high percentage of Africans who are racially profiled by the police.

Deputy Chief LeRonnne Armstrong

“When you practice precision-based or intelligence-based policing, you have to focus in on those who are committing crimes,” he said.  “The disparity exists based on who commits crimes in this city.”

In response, Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan sent a tweet last Tuesday calling for the administration and OPD to retract the comment:

“This comment is offensive and untrue—and OPD leadership and (the) Oakland administration should formally retract this claim. Black people are being pulled over, searched and even arrested, when there is no crime and no cause for suspicion,” said Kaplan.

Deputy Chief Armstrong clarified his comment in an interview with the Oakland Post:

“I think some people took the comment out of context. I apologize that the community has had to endure a comment that was taken in that way,” he said, pointing out that he is from the community and has had to experience unfair policing practices while growing up.

Continuing, he said, “The chief and I have been very committed to doing everything we can to reduce these disparity numbers. We are making far fewer stops than we

Desley Brooks

were making even a year ago.”

“We are not satisfied with the disparity numbers,” he said, adding that the department is holding more training for officers on diversity and around procedural justice. He said people are stopped for something they do, not because of their race.

It is important for officers to explain to people the reason they were stopped, so they will know that “it was not racial but some behavior that occurred,” which caused the stop, he said.

Mayor Schaaf did not respond to the Oakland Post’s questions. However, her office said she “addressed the issue directly at a Public Safety Town Hall… last Thurday.” The event had not yet been posted by OPD by the Post’s deadline.

Rebecca Kaplan

In an interview with the Post, Councilmember Kaplan raised concerns about the Schaaf administration’s reliance on the work of Stanford consultant Jennifer Eberhardt to end racial profiling by OPD.

“They are still disproportionately pulling over and questioning Black people, not based on the possibility of a particular crime being committed,” she said.  “It is time to demand an end to suspicionless stops.”

The trends indicate that fewer people are being stopped by the police, but African Americans are still stopped the most.

Police non-traffic stops have fallen between December 2016 and November 2017 from 14,259 to 11,219, a 21 percent decrease.

“Very little progress has been made as the share of Africans (in non-traffic) stops (has increased) slightly from 66 percent to 68 percent” of total stops, according to a PowerPoint presentation presented to OPD in February 2018 by the Stanford Technical Assistance Team.

(See http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/police/documents/webcontent/oak069090.pdf)

In the six months between June-November 2017, 5,259 African Americans were stopped by police—1,161 less than the previous six months.

According to the researchers’ PowerPoint, “Reducing disparities in policing outcomes is notoriously difficult because they are multiply determined, including by sociological factors outside of the police’s control. But changing policies to reduce (total numbers) can make an immediate difference in terms of impact on populations of color.”

The City Council voted this week to extend Eberhardt’s contract over the objections of the Public Safety Committee, which wanted to look into what the city is going to do to end racial profiling before approving the $500,000, two-year agreement.

“There’s no explanation at all of what this contract is supposed to be doing,” said Kaplan. “We’ve had the contract for four years. Why is it not working?”

At last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting, Couincilmembers Desley Brooks and Noel Gallo questioned approving a contract without a full discussion.

“People who appear to have done nothing (illegal) have been stopped by police because of their race. That is not acceptable. And the mayor should not think that it’s acceptable,” said Councilmember Brooks.

“Why doesn’t the mayor want to address the issue? Asked Brooks. “She said she is concerned, and this is important work, but she isn’t interested” in discussing the substantive issues.

Mayor Schaaf released a statement to the media late Wednesday afternoon thanking the City Council for renewing the consultant’s contract.

“Dr. Eberhardt’s intensive and transparent research will continue to advance policies that change the impact of policing communities of color,” she said.

“Dr. Eberhardt’s work has helped OPD dramatically reduce the number of stops of African Americans, which contributes to improved police-community trust.”

Published July 30, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Independent Police Commission Wins – Mayor Schaaf’s Staff, Attorney Parker Overruled

Gentrification and police abuse linked

“(This) enabling legislation … assures that the staff and the legal adviser will operate under the supervision of the commission and not the city administration,” says Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

By Ken Epstein

The City Council gave final approval this week to an ordinance that will allow the newly formed Police Commission to function independently of the Oakland Police Department and City Hall administrators who work closely with OPD.

The “enabling” ordinance, which passed 6-1 at Tuesday’s council meeting, lays out guidelines for the commission that were not covered in Measure LL, an amendment to the City Charter approved by 83 percent of the voters in 2016.

John Jones III

Voting in favor of regulations that require commission staff to report to the commission and not to the City Administrator and the City Attorney were Councilmembers Larry Reid, Rebecca Kaplan, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Dan Kalb, Abel Guillén and Noel Gallo. Annie Campbell Washington voted no.

At its first reading at the last council meeting in June, the measure passed over the objection of the City Attorney’s office and a legal consultant hired by the City Attorney.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, the ordinance passed despite the City Administrator’s last-ditch attempt to defeat it.

City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, who had served as police chief for months as OPD tried to recover from the fallout over its notorious sex abuse scandal, told councilmembers that despite the passage of the Measure LL charter amendment, the commission cannot operate independently of her and City Attorney Barbara Parker.

Mike Hutchinson

“The ordinance contains provisions that violate the City Charter,” she said. “It is important that we reflect carefully on the impact of something that erodes the integrity of our City Charter, the equivalent of our city’s constitution.

The enabling ordinance violates the city charter “as it relates to administrative functions,” she said.

Councilmember Kaplan, a strong backer of community efforts to bring police accountability to Oakland, defended the enabling ordinance as written.

“I urge that we hold strong and adopt … police enabling legislation and respect the voters of this city, respect the (police) commissioners themselves who have requested items (in the ordinance) and respect the principle of independent oversight,” she said.

The police commissioners themselves have said they need staff who are “independent and who can be relied upon by the commission to be working for them and not be in the same chain of command as the police department,” she said.

Continuing, Kaplan said, “In law, there is always potential for dispute, and there are always gray areas. But as this was a voter-approved ballot measure, the will and intent of the voters is also important. And it was clearly the intent to have independent (police) oversight.”

“We need to have police accountability all the way to the top,” Kaplan continued. “This is a chain-of-command-based organization, and most of what is done is done because it is ordered to be done.

“The commission has to have independence from the full chain of command,” she said.

During OPD’s sexual misconduct scandal, “it was a decision at the very top of the chain of command to let the senior officials involved not be punished,” she said.

During the ICE raid in West Oakland, OPD participated, but it was because of a decision of individual officers,” said Kaplan. “They were assigned to go. There was a decision made above to engage in that behavior.”

Members of the Coalition for Police Accountability, who have been working on the Police Commission for more than two years, thanked the council for passing the ordinance.

“Despite the horrors that are going on in Washington, D.C., Oakland is really taking a step forward that the rest of the country will be watching and the rest of the country will hopefully emulate,” said Pamela Drake of the coalition.

John Jones III, who works for the Dellums Institute for Social Justice, connected police abuse to the runaway gentrification that is sweeping the city.

Rebecca Kaplan

“There’s a reason why OPD is under federal review,” he said. “If we go back to 2003, when displacement first started in Oakland, there’s a clear connection between the housing crisis and law enforcement.”

Former Mayor Jerry Brown “wanted to bring 10,000 white affluent people into downtown Oakland (also called Brown’s 10K Plan). A mandate (was) given to get rid of Black people in order to make this city more attractive for developers.”

School activist Mike Hutchinson connected Oakland’s ongoing education crisis to Brown’s gentrification efforts.

“One other thing happened in 2003 that was a direct result of Jerry Brown being our mayor,” he said. “Our school district got taken over by the state. I would argue that the same person who came up with the 10K plan also came up with a version of that plan for education (opening) up our city to outsiders to come in and profit off our backs and destroy our communities. And we still haven’t recovered since.”

Published July 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: City Attorney Should Not Be Allowed to Undermine Police Commission

 

Oakland police

By Larry White, Attorney

Oakland’s City Council is poised to enact an enabling ordinance that would fill in the gaps in Measure LL, which created the Oakland Police Commission and the Civilian Police Review Agency and that was approved by 83 percent of the city’s voters.Our new Police Commission is one of the strongest and most independent civilian oversight bodies in the country. The City Council will take a vote on July 10 that could affirm that independence—or undermine it.

Larry White

The Coalition for Police Accountability drafted the original City Charter amendment and gave it to the City Council, which made changes and put it on the ballot in 2016.

Unfortunately, the messy process of amending the Charter—the back and forth of compromise and re-drafting the measures, as well as the influence of the police union—resulted in language wasn’t always crystal clear.
At least one important item was left out completely—a civilian Inspector General of the Police Department. Another matter was left murky: can the Commission have its own lawyer, or must its lawyer be under the thumb of the City Attorney.

Although Measure LL twice calls for a “non-City Attorney legal advisor,” City Attorney Barbara Parker says that another section of the Charter overrules the voters’ wishes and makes her the Commission’s legal advisor.
That’s a misreading of the Charter, which gives her office the right to represent the Commission in lawsuits against it but does not require the Commission to request legal advice from her.

Oakland’s Police Department has been under the supervision of a federal judge since 2003. In 2015, Judge Thelton Henderson commissioned attorney Edward Swanson to report on why so many Oakland police officers accused of misconduct were never punished.

Swanson found that the City usually lost the arbitrations that are police officers’ last step in discipline.  “Time and again, the City wrote checks to settle civil lawsuits arising out of police misconduct, only to see the City Attorney’s Office fail to uphold discipline for that very same misconduct,” he wrote.

The City Attorney’s office, Swanson charged, failed to prepare cases, delayed in assigning cases to outside counsel, didn’t select outside counsel with police discipline expertise, and failed to prosecute cases vigorously.
The City Attorney’s office didn’t get evidence ahead of time, rarely if ever called civilian witnesses, and didn’t use outside expert witnesses.

Swanson concluded that “the same problems arose again and again—vague policies, incomplete investigations, unprepared attorneys—with nothing done to ensure that the problems were corrected before they arose again.”

Since then, the City Attorney’s office, under intense scrutiny, has somewhat improved its performance. Swanson was still worried. Eventually, Court supervision will end. “The question, then, is how to make sure that when the Court and the key individuals in the City working on discipline have moved on, the discipline system will not revert to its former, ineffectual state,” wrote Swanson.

That was written before the November 2016 vote that created the Oakland Police Commission.  The Commission was designed by people who believed that the City of Oakland had failed for many years to effectively oversee the police and that none of the City’s existing institutions were capable of doing so.

The Commission’s sole mission is to oversee the Police Department, to promote constitutional policing that is free of racial bias and to make sure that police misconduct is punished effectively.

Court supervision, even if it lasts for another decade, is temporary. The Police Commission is here to stay.
The battle for effective civilian oversight goes on.

When the City Council considers approving an ordinance with a lawyer and an Inspector General reporting to the Police Commission, we hope they will heed the wish of the voters and make the Police Commission as independent and effective as it was designed to be.

The Council should also go one step further: put on this year’s ballot a clean-up to Measure LL that settles these matters once and for all.

Attorney Larry White is a member of the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability.  He served as a Senior Staff Counsel for the California Department of Insurance from 1992 to 2013. His responsibilities included reviewing and commenting on dozens of pieces of legislation every year as well as drafting new legislation and regulations.

Published June 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Community Wins Major Victory for Independent Police Oversight Commission

Police Commission Chair Thomas Smith. Photo courtesy East Bay Express.

By Ken Epstein

The debate at the City Council meeting went on for hours into the night, deciding the fate of the Oakland Police Commission. Would it be allowed to gain strength as an independent body that deliberates issues of police accountability and discipline, in the manner promised by Measure LL when it was passed by 83 percent of the voters in 2016?

Rebecca Kaplan

Or would the commission be required to operate like all other departments and commissions in the city, overseen by the City Attorney and City Administrator, who have not managed to produce a scandal-free police department after 15 years of federal oversight of OPD.

Ultimately, the debate ended Tuesday night in a major victory for the supporters of Measure LL and community members who were determined to hold onto the promise of an independent police commission.

Community members, over 80 of whom signed up to defend the commission, were backed by City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, who fought hard on the council for their proposal. After two resolutions failed, she backed a resolution that most councilmembers were willing to accept in the face of the determined opposition of both City Attorney Barbara Parker and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth.

The vote was 6-1 in support of the resolution. Kaplan, Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Dan Kalb and Abel Guillén voted in favor.  Annie Campbell Washington voted “no.”

City Administrator Sabrina Landreth ran the Oakland Police Department for one year after the resignation of successive police chiefs. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

Despite the victory, the conflict might not be settled. The ordinance must pass again at a second reading at the next council meeting, and there are indications that Landreth and Parker may try to influence councilmembers to reverse their position, according to police commission supporters.

The disagreements centered on the content of the enabling ordinance, which will establish the guidelines for how the police commission will function. The commission itself was established by passing an amendment to the City Charter, Measure LL.

The enabling ordinance has been tied up in behind the scenes discussions with city staff for over 18 months since Measure LL’s passage.

Barbara Parker

At the heart of the dispute is whether those who staff the police commission, an inspector general and an attorney, will be hired by and report to the commissioners, who are volunteers, or if the inspector general will report to the city administrator and the attorney to City Attorney Parker.

The whole point of creating the police commission, according to its supporters, was to establish oversight of the police that is independent of the city administration.

Pointing out that the City Administrator Landreth serves as supervisor of the Chief of Police, and the City Attorney represents the police department, police commission supporters argue there is a clear conflict of interest if these two officials are allowed to be in charge of police oversight.

“I feel like a broken record. I keep coming here saying the same thing…We need an independent police commission, and every time I turn around, someone else is trying to undermine that independence,” said Lorelei Bosserman, one of those who spoke in favor of maintaining the independent of the police commission.

“The City Attorney should have no authority over the legal counsel for the police commission. (She) represents the Oakland Police Department. There is an inherent conflict of interest there,” she said.

However, Parker’s legal opinion said the Police Commission’s recommendations for the enabling ordinance the draft ordinance that was already passed once by the City Council are “not in compliance with the City Charter.”

According to Parker in her legal opinion, “The staff who provide services to the commission are under the City Administrator’s personnel jurisdiction because the Charter does not provide an exception to the City Administrator’s jurisdiction.” (For the legal opinions, go the City Attorney’s website: oaklandcityattorney.org and click on the “Opinions and Reports” link.)

Speaking to the council meeting, Chair of the Police Commission Thomas Smith said that in order for the commission to do its job, it needs a “non-City Attorney-appointed legal advisor” and “an inspector general (who) reports directly to the commission—not somewhere else within the chain (of command).”

He said, “When you consider the fact that there is a constant interaction…between the police department and the people who serve the City Attorney, there is a relationship there… Does it have some influence? Is there some bias?”

Councilmember Kaplan, backing the police commissioners’ requests, said, “I think it is very important that we stick to the commitment that was made when this was being written, which is independent oversight.”

“We need independent oversight both so the commission can actually be independent and do the functions it was intended to by the voters and also so the commission can maintain its credibility, so its actions can be trusted and not seen as under the control of anyone who might have a dual role in terms of their management of the police department.”

Councilmember Kalb’s motion to accept the City Attorney’s changes to the enabling ordinance failed to pass, as did Kaplan’s motion to adopt the community coalition’s proposal.

What finally passed was a compromise motion, crafted by Kalb and Kaplan, that contained the two most important provisions of the commission’s recommendations.

Published June 23, 2018, Courtesy of the Oakland Post

Cat Brooks Looks to Community Power to Fuel Her Campaign for Mayor

 

Oakland mayoral candidate Cat Brooks addresses the crowd at the Lake Merritt amphitheater on Saturday, June 16, welcoming the community to a “people’s assembly” on housing. Photo by Sarah Carpenter.

By Sarah Carpenter

Mayoral candidate Cat Brooks is not following the standard campaign path that the public has come to expect locally and nationally – where those who are running for office adopt positions based on opinion pools and “expert” advice of hired campaign staff.

True to her history of grassroots organizing in Oakland, she is building her platform by relying on “people’s assemblies” to help produce solutions to the pressing problems facing Oaklanders.

She hosted a people’s assembly on “Housing the Unhoused & Tenant Protections,” one of the city’s hottest issues, Saturday morning, June 16, at the Lake Merritt amphitheater.
“This isn’t the Cat Brooks campaign, this is the people’s campaign,” said Brooks.

Local activists and residents spoke about the goals they are working toward and what they want Oakland’s next mayor to accomplish to meet the needs of the unhoused.

Multiple speakers supported the Affordable Housing Act, which will appear on the ballot in November. The act repeals the controversial 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act that places statewide restrictions on rent control for buildings built or heavily remodeled after 1995 (with some exemptions).

 

Steven DiCaprio, CEO and founder of Land Action, spoke about a need for the decriminalization of homelessness and the end of collective punishment (when one person in an encampment commits a crime, and the entire encampment is evicted as a result).

DiCaprio suggested that the City ask its police to stop enforcing trespassing laws (specifically penal code 602) on properties that have been left vacant for years.

Another speaker, Jamie, suggested an anti-speculation tax for those who don’t live in Oakland, but profit from its real estate and the displacement of Oaklanders.

“Our government has been working for the people who own the property, and I would like to see our city council and our mayor work for the residents—the people who live here, the people who inhabit space, the people who are part of the community,” she said.

These ideas and more were written down on a jumbo notepad by a campaign volunteer.
Other ideas included a cap on the rental services fee, more taxpayer money spent on housing the unhoused, workforce housing, and emergency housing for seniors, people with disabilities, and people with children.

Those who missed the assembly may still contribute to the conversation on housing or any other past assemblies by visiting www.catbrooksforoakland.com. Live streams of past assemblies are also available.

Published June 22, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post